NYPD Commissioner Dermot Shea pleaded for dialogue and calm on Thursday, saying he is concerned anti-police rhetoric fueling violence could result in another police officer assassination.
“I’ve seen firsthand what they are working through,” said Shea, talking about the department’s officers from police headquarters in lower Manhattan. “I’ve seen their blood on their uniforms this week. They are giving everything to keep this city together.”
Shea gave an impassioned speech defending the department in the wake of multiple anti-police demonstrations to protest the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis while in police custody. The commissioner cited the killings of NYPD Officers Rafael Ramos and Wenjian Liu, who were killed in a 2014 ambush in Brooklyn by a man who authorities said was seeking revenge for the police chokehold killing of Eric Garner in Staten Island.
Shea cited various acts of violence committed against officers amid the Floyd demonstrations, including officers being struck by cars and hit with cement-filled water bottles, bricks and a fire extinguisher, as well as last night’s stabbing. He said cops on Thursday arrested a protester in the Bronx with a loaded handgun.
He also issued an extraordinary apology for mistakes made by the police department.
“I am sorry,” Shea said. “Sometimes even the best, and the NYPD is the goddamn best police department in this country, but sometimes even the best fall down. So for our part in the damage to civility, for our part in racial bias, in excessive force, unacceptable behavior, unacceptable language and many other mistakes, we are human. I am sorry. Are you?”
Shea said while there are many peaceful protesters who are seeking needed change, there are others who are only interested in law-breaking and picking fights with police, adding that “some of it appears carefully choreographed … to create more negative imagery.”
He said while most officers have dealt with the situation with “extreme professionalism,” he acknowledged that there were some “bad videos” of officers assaulting protesters. He said Internal Affairs investigations into those incidents were “progressing as fast as possible in a riot situation.”
He added: “Without a doubt, there will probably be a couple of officers suspended as a result of those actions.”
As he started speaking, Shea showed video clips of recent attacks on cops and asked rhetorically, “How the hell did we get here?”
Shea criticized certain unnamed public officials who he said were keeping silent at a time of anti-cop violence.
“We hear silence from so many of our elected officials, it is sickening,” Shea said. “We are living in a toxic time, one that relies on the selective use of a combination of things, some facts, misinformation, rumor, false conclusions that can be drawn from all of them.”
He said the toxic environment hurts police and the public.
“This is not what democracy looks like, this is violence pure and simple, this is what fear feels like if we lose control,” Shea said. “You have to have calm in the city ... dialogue is the answer.”